a fistful of linkage

Because I’m utterly stumped for a topic this week:

England’s new psychedelic renaissance: not a third Summer of Love (yes, there was a second [YouTube]), but less with the (pure) hedonism and more with the science.

Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in Sixteenth-Century England is exactly what it sounds like: a painstaking examination of extant coroners’ reports reveal many, many dangers of everyday Elizabethan life. Maybe I’m morbid but I look forward to checking out their podcasts and bibliography.

The Racism Behind Alien Mummy Hoaxes: the whole “ancient aliens” thing doesn’t sit well for me and this article explains why better than I ever could. Insisting that aliens must have made [insert marvel of the world here] grossly discounts the tenacity and ingenuity of ancient and/or indigenous peoples. The possibility that hoaxers alter real mummies also runs into issues of desecration of indigenous burials and corruption of archaeological finds.

Photo of incredulous Agent Scully. Text: I'm not saying it was aliens...because it wasn't.
Courtesy Imgflip

Biweekly links 2-8-2017

Here’s what Google Alerts netted for me over the past fortnight:

Queer occult vs. “alt-right” occult: a very different take on the current political turmoil in the U.S. Disclaimer: I am not a practitioner but I find the idea that memes are a kind of magic provocative, to say the least. Thoughts?

Magick as strategy in World War Two: that the Nazis embraced their own twisted form of occultism isn’t news, but the possibility of the English fighting fire with fire in the form of Aleister Crowley is a new one on me. Fantasy, of course, but the facts it’s based on are arguably weirder.

16th-century English Tudor rose pendant unearthed near Moscow Kremlin: before we go all “how did it get there?!” keep in mind that England had a presence in Russia from the time of Ivan the Terrible (a prospective employer of John Dee – but that’s another story). Interestingly I first learned of Englishmen in Ivan’s Russia through Ann Swinfen’s historical fiction as she set one of her Christoval Alvarez books in Muscovy.

Photos: Secret ‘Hole’ to Hide Priests Revealed in Tudor Mansion: Archaeology, hidden passages, and spycraft, my favorites! Researchers used a 3D laser scanner to plot the priest hole’s location in Coughton Court, a “false hole” concealing the real one. Historians believe Nicholas Owens, English Catholic spy and escape artist, created it. Later several of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators used Coughton Court as a hideout.

rectangular alcove in a stone wall
Another priest hole, at Oxborough Hall, UK. By Alasdair Massie on Flickr, some rights reserved.

biweekly links 12-14-2016

Queen Elizabeth I’s Vast Spy Network Was The First Surveillance State: repeats old myths about John Dee as the inspiration for 007 but the rest of the article is rock solid factual. I used Alford’s “The Watchers” as background for the “Dee/Kelley as spies” angle and discovered enough about intelligencer Charles Sledd to make him a well-rounded antagonist for my book.

Oil painting of dour Elizabethan man in dark clothes and stiffly starched ruff
Elizabeth I’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, attributed to John de Critz the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Pretty glum, no? He was probably only happy when fighting Spain and the Catholic Church.
Through foreign eyes: the forgotten ambassadors to the Tudor court: English espionage got organized under Liz but there was plenty of spy vs. spy at her dad’s court too. Diplomats spied on the king, courtiers, and each other, with varying degrees of success.

In the 16th Century, People Went Crazy for Portraits Made Up of Fruits and Veggies – delightful thumbnail sketch of Rudolf II fave Giuseppe Archimboldo and a nice selection of his proto-surrealist portraiture.

Why the Stone Age could be when Brits first brewed beer: hops only came in during the late medieval period but fermenting was going on long before that. Heather ale? Why not – evidently it has a long tradition in Scotland. Article links extensively to archaeologists’ CVs and publications, and even a few historically-inspired brews. Don’t you just love food archaeology?

biweekly links 10-5-2016

biweekly links 5-18-2016

  • I lived in Georgia half my life so of course I’d never heard of Lake Lanier’s legends until I read about them on an Australian paranormal news site. Evidently its got a giant catfish and ghosts, the latter the paranormal result of leaving entire towns (and cemeteries?) intact beneath its muddy waters.
  • The Ghost Rockets Investigational Portal is a searchable database of Swedish military UFO reports. It’s also the starting point for a crowdsourcing effort to tag and translate the documents into English.
  • The original Globe Theater is long gone, but The Curtain has been found. It seems the archaeologists are rushing to outpace impending new construction over this Shakespearean theater, but there will be a visitors’ center for the dig once excavation is complete.
  • More London: “A series of talks on alchemy and magic” are planned for June 4th and 5th to support the restoration of Brompton Cemetery. Featuring all the hits: Dee, Faust, Paracelsus, and even a theremin concert. Ah, to be in Merrie Olde…
A theremin - a box on a pedestal with an antenna on one side, a metal loop on the other
A theremin – the instrument used to create creepy music associated with 1950s sci-fi films. Courtesy Wikipedia

biweekly links 1-27-2016

“Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons” by George Pendle – recent review of a ten-year old book, and damn was Jack Parsons a strange bird! Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist by day and magician by night, Parsons “treated magic and rocketry as different sides of the same coin” – rather the same way the Renaissance natural philosophers saw no difference between science and magic. Putting on my to-read list.

In difficult times, many readers turn to historical fiction – a psychologist suggests “exploration of the sights, sounds, and events of past eras… help[s] us to imagine how to negotiate the strains of current real-life situations.” Includes reviews of some of her favorites (full disclosure: I’ve not read any of them).

John Dee: Scholar, Courtier, Magician [Video] – if you missed it on my Twitter or Facebook last week, this half hour sneak preview/interview with the curator is well worth seeing. Not only was Dee’s handwriting beautiful but he was a fair artist – check out his doodles.

XETB Plays the Music of John Dee – or music inspired by him, at any rate. Unavailable in my country due to licensing restrictions – can anyone get at it? What do you think?

A Little Bird Told Me: Aleister Crowley and Genesis P-Orridge in Occult Art Show – as ever, you can’t throw the word “occult” around without crashing into Crowley, but he’s not the dominant artist in the show. Some of the usual magic circles and talismans plus other esoteric symbolism.

Researchers confirm site of Salem witch hangings – discovered using witness accounts and modern aerial mapping, the site now overlooks a Walgreens, of all things.